Introduction to the politics of life: a biopolitical mess

Greg Bird, Heather Lynch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
606 Downloads (Pure)


This introduction to the special issue focuses on the messiness of biopolitics. The biopolitical is a composite mixture of heterogeneous, and sometimes conflicting, forces, discourses, institutions, laws, and practices that are embedded in and animated by material social relations. In the now extensive literature on biopolitics, our biopolitical era is characterized by the blending and mixing of what were previously thought of as separate realms: life is biologized, politics is biologized and biology is politicized, life and politics have been economized, and making life is intertwined with making death. This article provides a general overview of two strains of these biopolitical entanglements. It begins by examining the largely French and Italian focus on how politics and life have become economized in contemporary neoliberalism. We then turn to the mainly Anglo-American focus on the biologization of life. It concludes by taking up the central problem that arises from the messiness of biopolitics: whither the political of the biopolitical economy of life? Is there such a thing as the political proper in our era? If not, then what type of politics must be deployed to address the issues of our biopolis?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-316
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Theory
Issue number3
Early online date24 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019


  • anthropocene
  • foucault
  • biopolitics
  • geontopolitics
  • homo oeconomicus
  • necropolitics
  • posthuman

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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